Psalms 120

A Cry for Truth and Peace


A song of ascents.

1 In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me:
2 "Lord, deliver me from lying lips and a deceitful tongue."
3 What will He give you, and what will He do to you, you deceitful tongue?
4 A warrior's sharp arrows, with burning charcoal![a]
5 What misery that I have stayed in Meshech, that I have lived among the tents of Kedar![b]
6 I have lived too long with those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

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Psalms 120 Commentary

Chapter 120

The psalmist prays to God to deliver him from false and malicious tongues. (1-4) He complains of wicked neighbours. (5-7)

Verses 1-4 The psalmist was brought into great distress by a deceitful tongue. May every good man be delivered from lying lips. They forged false charges against him. In this distress, he sought God by fervent prayer. God can bridle their tongues. He obtained a gracious answer to this prayer. Surely sinners durst not act as they do, if they knew, and would be persuaded to think, what will be in the end thereof. The terrors of the Lord are his arrows; and his wrath is compared to burning coals of juniper, which have a fierce heat, and keep fire very long. This is the portion of the false tongue; for all that love and make a lie, shall have their portion in the lake that burns eternally.

Verses 5-7 It is very grievous to a good man, to be cast into, and kept in the company of the wicked, from whom he hopes to be for ever separated. See here the character of a good man; he is for living peaceably with all men. And let us follow David as he prefigured Christ; in our distress let us cry unto the Lord, and he will hear us. Let us follow after peace and holiness, striving to overcome evil with good.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Lit with coals of the broom bush
  • [b]. Meshech: a people far to the north of Palestine; Kedar: a nomadic people of the desert to the southeast

Chapter Summary


\\<>\\. This psalm, and the fourteen following, are called "songs of degrees", or "ascents" {o}; for what reason it is not easy to say. Some think it refers to the music of them, and that this is the name of the tune to which they were set; or the first word of a song according to which they were sung, as Aben Ezra; or that they were sung with an higher voice, or an ascending note, as Saadiah Gaon. Others are of opinion that the title of them respects the ascent of persons or places, at what time and where they were sung; either when the Israelites went up to Jerusalem, at the three solemn yearly feasts; or when the Jews came up from Babylon, mention being made in some of these psalms of their being in Babylon, and of their return from their captivity there; and so the inscription of the Syriac version is, ``the first song of ascent; the people detained in Babylon pray to be delivered.'' But the common opinion of the Jews, and which is embraced by many Christians {p}, and is mentioned by Jarchi, Saadiah Gaon, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, is, that these are the songs sung by the Levites, on the fifteen steps, by which they went up from the court of the women to the court of the Israelites, or came down them; and on each step sung one of these psalms {q}. Though it may be they are so called because of their excellency; a song of degrees being an "excellent" {r} song, as an excellent man is called a man of high degree, 1Ch 17:17; these being excellent ones for the matter of them, their manner of composure, and the brevity of them. It is generally thought this psalm was composed by David, on account of Doeg the Edomite, because of its likeness in some things with the fifty second psalm: and certain it is that the psalmist had been in some great distress, and at a distance from his own country and the house of God, and dwelt among wicked men when he wrote it; so that it is very probable it was composed during his exile through the persecution of Saul. {o} twleml ryv "canticum ascensionum", Munster, Vatablus. {p} L'Empereur in Middot, c. 2. s. 5. Lightfoot's Temple-Service, c. 20. so Theodoret in loc. {q} Vid. Misn. Middot. c. 2. s. 5. Succah, c. 5. s. 4. {r} "Canticum excellentissimum", Junius & Tremellius.

Psalms 120 Commentaries

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